It’s still a bit chilly around here but I thought I’d share a video from last summer that features one of my raised bed gardens at Camp Rawnora. I used old fence posts and fence boards to create the frame for the garden. The length of the fence boards determined the length of my garden. The only cutting I did was on the fence posts which I cut down to 14 inches. I dug a 6 inch deep hole for each of them and secured them in the ground before attaching the face boards. With recycled wood it is important to pre-drill holes and secure everything with wood screws. This aged wood had a tendency to split at the ends and pre-drilling will prevent that.
Underneath I lined the ground with cardboard and newspaper to kill off the grass and to prevent weeds from growing up into the bed. Eventually all of this material will breakdown and turn into future fertilizer. The beds were filled with composted manure which our horses happily produce. I topped the beds and the walkway around the bed with woodchips. This was useful for retaining moisture in the beds especially during the drought we had last summer.
All the plants that went into the raised bed were grown from organic seed started under grow lights and then transplanted. The variety of tobacco used was from heirloom seeds gifted to Camp Rawnora by a Native American. The tobacco leaves and seeds were collected for ceremonial usage. As you can see from the pictures, humming birds enjoy the bountiful yellow blooms of the tobacco plant.
Currently the bed has a thick layer of dead leaves on top of it which is covered in a layer of snow. Eventually the snow will melt and it will be time to replant the bed. This year I plan on using activated EM to prepare the soil and I hope to experiment with compost tea as well. I’ll be sure to post my progress.
Recently I was in Grand Rapids, MI on a raw food detox mission. I’m not at liberty to discuss the details of this covert operation at this time… just kidding. I was there doing The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Raw Food Detox stuff and visiting Lansing for a raw potluck and screening of Forks Over Knives. If you haven’t seen Forks Over Knives you need to get with it and watch it online, rent it, buy it… you could even steal it as long as you promise to show it to everyone in your life. It’s great to see conscious media catching on. This movie was made for all those people that felt totally jipped when they watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Yeah, you know the film about global warming that completely overlooks factory farming’s contribution to green house gas emission… it tops all of the worlds motor vehicle emissions. Al Gore was too busy tending cattle on his family farm and polishing his Oscar and Nobel Peace prize to notice Livestock’s Long Shadow. No worries, even though Forks Over Knives is about degenerative diseases and diet they still manage to squeeze the facts in. Livestock production is the main source of human-made methane which is responsible for 22% of man’s total contribution. I say “man” because I think if it were left up to woman, factory farms would have never come into existence.
The film screening was a great success with close to 100 people showing up. I had the honors of conducting the Q and A session after the screening. A big
“THANK YOU” to Charles Terry for organizing the event in Lansing.
Grand Rapids, MI is one of my new favorite cities. The city has a cozy and clean downtown surrounded by welcoming neighborhoods. There’s a mixture of college housing and residential homes from the turn of the century. My friend Kim lives with in walking distance of the local vegan restaurant Bartertown Diner. This blurb from their website rings true with me for many reasons:
“We as Chefs want to take back the food and serve it to you the way it was meant to be: fresh and local. We are craftsmen and want to have the space to perform our craft for you. At Bartertown education is the key. We will not hide recipes from you. We will have classes on cooking raw/vegan and vegi dishes, and what it means to eat this way. Our focus will also be on the having a simple diner atmosphere that will be fun and exciting to visit for all”
Bartertown is also a worker owned business. At the time we visited they were a “cash only” establishment but as of Oct. 18th 2011 it shows on their website that they are taking steps to be able to accept credit/debit cards. We stopped in for lunch and tried all the raw items on the menu that day. Keep in mind this review is coming from a seasoned raw food chef who has done his fair share of work in the trenches. With that said, here’s my review of the raw items we tried.
I expected a little more from a menu item touted as raw pizza. There’s 101 ways to peel a mango and just as many to make “raw pizza” but one thing that is critical for pulling off a believable pizza is a dehydrator for making the crust. Then you need some nut/seed cheese and tomatoes. And the final touch is some herbs to bring it home. This was zucchini slices with a cauliflower medley perched on top of it. It was good, don’t get me wrong. It just needed a more appropriate name.
Raw Trash Salad
Appropriately named this was a hearty salad combination that took me back to my college days of making “garbage time stew”. That’s where you open the pantry and the refrigerator and just start combining whatever is on hand. The only difference here is that there was some tasty method to the raw trash madness. The salad featured a mound of salad greens, walnut taco meat, marinated veggies, sliced apples and a cashew based creamy dressing. Good eat’n! Once again very fresh and hydrating unlike some of the raw food cuisine you encounter at raw cuisine establishments.
Zucchini Noodles Salad
This noodle salad was similar to Raw Trash Salad, minus the greens, plus the zucchini noodles, cauliflower and brocolli. Very fresh, very tasty. On their own each of the 3 salads is unique enough taste experience but when you have them all on the table at the same time you notice some similarities and overlapping of ingredients. As a chef I know that at times you must create a variety of menu items out of the same core ingredients. Not a big deal though. I realized that what Bartertown specialized in was vegan, local and seasonal cuisine… raw was just a bonus that I much appreciated.
After to speaking with chef/co-owner Ryan about the raw menu at Bartertown I found out they don’t have a dehydrator on premises. That explains a lot. They’re a vegan cooked diner with some raw food items so it’s not realistic to expect exotic and decadent raw cuisine from them. One thing to keep in mind is that with a seasonal menu things change. What we did get were some great fresh salad combinations featuring local produce, prepared with love and a couple slices of quality raw vegan pie.
Chocolate Pie, Lemon Pie
Bravo to Jeremy Kuhn of Deliciosity for producing raw vegan pies for Bartertown. We tried both a chocolate and lemon slice of cheese cake style pie. I enjoyed that the chocolate wasn’t super super chocolatey. I noticed slight hints of carob in the coconut oil based filling. The lemon pie was tasty as well with hints of banana. Needless to say when Kim and I left the table there wasn’t any food left behind. There’s more to the menu at Bartertown then just raw food so if you’re in Grand Rapids, stop in and give them a try. Keep in mind that as of this post they are CLOSED TUESDAYS. Grow your own, buy local, eat seasonally and Keep It Live!
Things are cruising along here in Watervliet, MI. We just hosted our first Dinner & a Movie last night at Camp Rawnora. We dined on Pad Thai with almond miso sauce, green papaya salad and had strawberry key lime pie for dessert. It was good eat’n. We watched Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days in the newly completed media room. This dinner was the first event where I prepared food in the classroom kitchen. As I’ve said before I am capable of preparing raw foods for a dozen people in a phone booth if I have to, so this kitchen space presented only minor challenges. These small events are just preparation for the big events like the Raw Food Detox Camp in August and the Green Juice Feast in September. Also, July 4th weekend is approaching fast and we have a vegan friendly family weekend lined up with a variety of activities. To top all things off we’re also having a book launch party for the release of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Raw Food Detox on July 16th here at Camp Rawnora. I’m anxious to actually see a copy of my book in print form. The publisher assures me they’re going to send me some advance copies but I’ve yet to see them. Any of my readers that come to an event this year at Camp Rawnora, let me know in advance by sending me a message with “Keep It Live” in the subject line and I’ll give you a signed copy of my book when you get here. You can use the contact form on my site redeem this special offer.
Never a dull moment out here between preparing for and promoting events and exploring the 400 acres at Ronora Lodge. For those of you out there that may be confused regarding “Ronora Lodge” and “Camp Rawnora” here are the basics:
Ronora Lodge and Retreat Center is a rental facility for events that encompasses 400 acres of land with lodges, cabins, a dining hall, gardens, woodlands and a private lake. Ronora has been in operation for over 20 years. They host events of all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors.
Camp Rawnora is raw food detox camp and learning center that is housed on the property adjacent to Ronora Lodge. This works out great both Ronora and Rawnora because Camp Raw can use the grounds at Ronora while Ronora can have their foods prepared in the all raw Camp Rawnora production kitchen. The production kitchen is also used in the Fall to dry and preserve all the extra food grown in the gardens and green houses both at Ronora and Rawnora. Any volunteers wanting to join us for the Fall harvest get in touch with me and we organize a work exchange. Actually if learning about raw foods is a newly found passion of yours and you have a background in yoga, massage, reflexology, holistic health, marketing, promotions and/or online media contact me about an apprenticeship.
At the moment I’m a staff of 1, with tons of support from the Ronora Lodge crew. Eventually we’re going to have to expand to meet demand and build a staff for Camp Rawnora so drop me a line if a rustic raw food work exchange is something that might interest you or someone you know.
When I’m not planning and promoting for Camp Rawnora I’m busy planting and picking for my belly. There’s a wealth of wild edibles as well as planted food here. But some of the most beautiful things aren’t to be consumed with the mouth but with the eyes. Here’s a showcase of the flowers I feasted my eyes upon this Spring. Please post comments below if you know the names of any of them. —Come and visit me at Camp Rawnora and Keep it Live!